In 2014 I joined Premise as the first UX hire to help build out a mobile data gathering product. Our goal was to provide real time, micro-level price indexing to make for better investment decisions at a macro scale. From capturing the price of flour in Nigeria for Standard Chartered Bank, to evaluating the penetration of the energy grid in Kenya for Google, we built a product to handle dozens of client use-cases. Read on for more.

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CAPTURING REALITY

Based on user research in the Bay Area, we mapped out the ideal flow for capturing in-store data in the form of photos and manually entered pricing data. After piloting the process internationally, we had to make some modifications due to differences in how food is priced, and how pricing data is displayed (especially in smaller rural markets). 

Our beta users were actively onboarded by our Support team through Whatsapp and UserVoice, but future versions of the app included a built in sign up flow that was much more hands off. 

DECISIONS THROUGH DATA

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As with many businesses built on gathering data, Premise also has a significant customer-facing business intelligence (BI) product. We worked closely with our customers to figure out what data mattered to them - this was harder than it sounds because they had never encountered data this timely, as government figures are typically released every quarter (not daily or weekly). Working from basic wireframes, we quickly interated to build a live, usable product for testing.

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We started with a real time index for Nigeria, mapping daily food prices throughout the country. Using our data, Standard Chartered Bank discovered that official inflation figures were incorrect, which helped them adjust their investment approach in the region. In a different case, Unilever tapped our network to capture share-of-shelf data that helped them uncover how they were faring relative their competitors in local stores.

 

UNIQUE USE CASES

Working with bottom-of-the-pyramid users, many earning less than $5/day, made for interesting challenges. For example, we needed to design a product that supported upward of 2 dozen device types and screen sizes, in addition to 4 versions of Android OS simultaneously. Further, because phone signal is spotty in much of rural Africa and Asia, we had to adapt our data gathering flows to allow users to capture photos offline with a view to uploading them later. 

We also worked with customers on human development issues, including a Google project for mapping rural electrification in Kenya, and a WHO project in Liberia in the wake of the Ebola outbreak to capture hospital bed availability in and around Monrovia (and the corresponding impact on infection numbers). Building an app to handle to many different users and scenarios made for interesting work!

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